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BARKLICE - a general term given to a diverse group of soft-bodied insects in the family Psosidae.

According to bug scientists these insects first appeared in the Permian period, 295–248 million years ago. So not to change much, they must be doing something right. Also, they are not really lice…they just look like them, so us humans just lump them all together with a common name. They are often regarded as the most primitive of the hemipteroids. Their name originates from the Greek word ψῶχος, psokhos meaning gnawed or rubbed and πτερά, ptera meaning wings. I had to include the original Greek here, as the letters are soooo cool, no?

The species as a whole received their common name because they are commonly found amongst old books, where they feed upon the paste used in binding. The ones we see in the forests here in Hong Kong typically feed on algae and lichen, using their chewing mandibles, and interestingly the central lobe of the maxilla is modified into a slender rod, which is used to brace the insect while it scrapes up detritus with its mandibles. “Use your fork, Maximilian, not your rod” is often heard at psocopteran mealtimes.

Pictured here is the Genus Clematoscenea, which is the one I most often see, with the small red nymphs all huddled together. Tap the area near them and they all run in different directions, dispersing so not be predated - listen closely you can hear them scream ”eat him, eat him, not me…..” Then, after a while, whey all come back to huddle back together, and pretend to be friends again.


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